Pushing the Military Service Initiative, a project of his presidential library’s policy institute, President George W. Bush spoke in Dallas today, reminding the 99 percent of the responsibility they have to the 1 percent who keep them safe.
“They are the 1% of America who kept the 99% safe,” Bush said of the 2.5 million military members who have served since 9/11. “While it never hurts to say thank you, that is not really the point.”
Speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas and joined by second lady Jill Biden, the former President did not sugarcoat the disconnect between service members, their families and the civilian public, which he called the “civilian-military divide.”
The initiative is a public-private partnership that started with a study and survey of post-9/11 veterans in cooperation with Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Some of its findings:
— Of the 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans, more than 2 million served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
— The average veteran spent one out of every three years overseas.
— 82 percent of the post-9/11 veterans said that they would recommend military service to someone considering signing up, and 94 percent said they were proud of their military service.
— 84 percent of the veterans say the American public has little awareness of the challenges they and their families face; 71 percent of Americans say they do not understand the problems facing our veterans.
— Post-9/11 veterans face ever higher rates of unemployment than their civilian counterparts, and this is their top concern.
— Veterans without a steady job are more susceptible to other problems, such as depression, addiction, homelessness and suicide.
— The dropout rate for veterans exceeds 50 percent at some institutions of higher learning.
Bush’s initiative has goals of tackling PTSD, which the former president emphasized should be considered a treatable ailment like any other, veteran unemployment, and the civilian-military divide, by focusing on getting results through research.
The research includes: a review and aggregation of all prior research and data on post-9/11 veterans; a survey of thought leaders in the private, public and non-profit sectors on veterans issues; and the development of a profile of the post-9/11 veteran.
From that, the Bush Institute hopes to create a set of best practices that can be applied to business, non-profits and other groups that are working with veterans and their families.
My friend James Brobyn is the executive director of the Travis Manion Foundation, on whose board I serve— a group dedicated to closing the civilian-military gap, serving and understanding families of the fallen and returning vets, helping them navigate transitions and find purpose in the civilian world. He was at the event today and pointed me to this motion graphic, which summarizes the profile of the post-9/11 veteran. The full research will be released in April: